How CAN you be religious if you are a feminist?

(227 Posts)

Given that misyogyny is absolutely inherent in Christianity, Islam and the rest (even when they try to dress it up as saying they 'revere' women and women are 'special' it;s still about women being defined by men as not quite human), how can a woman follow any of these myth systems without accepting that she's less than fully human and her imaginary friend thinks so too, otherwise why wouldn't it have smashed the patriarchy already?

thumbwitch Sat 27-Mar-10 15:29:20

important to remember that things like the Bible etc were written by men too... St.Paul was a raging misogynist.

sarah293 Sat 27-Mar-10 15:30:34

Message withdrawn

dittany Sat 27-Mar-10 15:31:35

I don't think Jesus did much for women. If he'd told men specifically that they shouldn't try to have authority over women and that it was wrong to rape or beat us then I would be more convinced by the Jesus was a feminist argument. Or maybe if he'd said that the goddess was his mother, rather than talking about his dad all the time. Nothing like shoring up patriarchy by claiming god is male.

Somebody who is brave enough to claim to be the son of god, ought to be brave enough to stand up to male supremacy as well.

I think one of the things for women in these religions is that they don't have to have faith in god himself but they also have to have faith that the religion doesn't really hate them, even though there is mountains of evidence to the contrary.

SpeedyGonzalez Sat 27-Mar-10 15:34:10

Just to add - part of the problem with the Bible is that the culture it was written in chose to put women in second place to men. So when those men wrote the Bible, they were writing from within that culture (as I said above, Jesus didn't accept those prejudices).

It's very difficult to tease out the societal assumptions made within an ancient Hebrew culture, and church folk (and I'm sure people in other religions) struggle with it ALL the time. In a similar way, someone looking at our culture in 1000 years time might just as well assume that we all consider it acceptable for little girls to be sexualised because there's so much within our culture that does this.

Fascinating discussion.

posieparker Sat 27-Mar-10 15:34:16

I am an atheist but studied feminist theology as part of my degree, very weird, anyway.... I think the most terrible thing about m ost religion is that 'tradition' means it never moves on. Texts reflect the time in which they were written and as most religions rely on the teachings they fail to evolve. I'm sure that if Jesus or The Prophet were to come again they would certainly have many different teachings to offer. I cannot imagine a omniscient, omnipresent and benevolent God would support such inequality. Which is a whole other thing isn't because I can't believe any creator would ever have created such an inequality in the first place.

posieparker Sat 27-Mar-10 15:35:15

Sorry after that rambling, I think the inequality between the sexes proves there is no God.

thumbwitch Sat 27-Mar-10 15:37:35

<<waves at speedy>> good post my friend - lots of what I wanted to say on there but haven't the brain power any more.

choosyfloosy Sat 27-Mar-10 15:42:59

I haven't found it to be possible.

In purely practical terms, I have got tired of being handed the child-care/food preparation elements of religion as soon as I set foot in a place of worship. Not very theological I know, but then I don't live in a theological college.

SpeedyGonzalez Sat 27-Mar-10 17:18:35

Chibi: "I have chosen to keep my relationship with God and sacrifice the churchgoing for now." - Oh, I've been there too, spent many a year outside the church and I think my faith has greatly benefited for it.

dittany - I wish I were a better theologian, I would like to be able to answer the fullness of your statement. However, you should be aware that Jesus never actually explicitly said he was the son of God. That much of your statement I can answer with certainty. As for the question of him speaking out against female oppression, that's an interesting point. I think it's difficult to live in our time and culture and appreciate how radical his treatment of women was at the time; we can only read about it with 21st century Western eyes and say 'so what?'. But if we were 1st century Palestinians I think we'd appreciate the shock value much more. Sometimes he chose to speak out explicitly against injustices; sometimes he demonstrated his antipathy through actions rather than words. Also don't forget that the biblical records are incomplete - who knows what stories may have been missed out? Not that we should rely on 'what ifs', but my point is that the picture is more complex than you're assuming.

The biblical quotes that you've posted make grim reading, I'm not going to pretend that they don't. And so I can see how someone outside the faith would take them at face value and be turned off; I'm sure I would if I did not understand my faith as well as I do. But they all fit into what I was saying earlier about the 1st century Hebrew culture. I could just as well quote the bit in Genesis where God says (I paraphrase) 'I created them both male and female, in my image' - in other words - male + female together = the image of God. Not male alone.

thumbs - thanks! How you doing, girl?

Posie - I'm surprised that you come to that conclusion about the existence of God. Do you think, then, that inequality of any sort could not come about through screwy humans inventing it? I see this everywhere I turn: people oppressing each other because they choose to, not because a God has made them do it.

bloss: "I think, too, that if you seriously wanted to engage believers in a debate (as opposed to ranting at them) you would do better to avoid calling God an imaginary friend. In another context, you can make your point that way repeatedly (as I know you do). But basic courtesy is usually a better basis for a serious debate (if that's what you're after...)" I totally agree. I think SGB is clearly trying to bait people, and comes across as not wanting thoughtful discussion so much as a bit of a ruck. Is that the case, SGB?

Alouiseg Sat 27-Mar-10 17:24:14

Great post SGB. I can't believe in any spirit filled lunacy but I can believe in women.

dittany Sat 27-Mar-10 17:30:40

From what I read of the new testament I think he did ,speedy. I'd have to check though.

From googling there's a bit about it here:

www.ccci.org/how-to-know-god/who-is-jesus-god-or-just-a-good-man/index.htm

"C. S. Lewis, who was a professor at Cambridge University and once an agnostic, understood this issue clearly.

He writes: "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -&#8209; on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg &#8209;- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse."

Then Lewis adds: "You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

In the words of Kenneth Scott Latourette, historian of Christianity at Yale University: "It is not His teachings which make Jesus so remarkable, although these would be enough to give Him distinction. It is a combination of the teachings with the man Himself. The two cannot be separated."

Jesus claimed to be God. He didn't leave any other option open. His claim must be either true or false, so it is something that should be given serious consideration."

"And so I can see how someone outside the faith would take them at face value and be turned off; I'm sure I would if I did not understand my faith as well as I do."

This is exactly what I'm saying about having to have faith in your religion as well as god. Why don't you take the sexism at face value. The patriarchs who rule christianity certainly do. Yet women in christianity end up with this double think of "they don't really mean it". They really do mean it.

SpeedyGonzalez Sat 27-Mar-10 17:33:12

Just quickly, dittany - he never said it explicitly. He implied it by the way he spoke, but it was never explicitly stated. That's what the writers you quoted are referring to. And that's also an example of what I mean when I say he chose different means to communicate different messages - sometimes preaching on a hill, sometimes chatting with his mates, sometimes leading by example, sometimes implying and sometimes stating things explicitly.

dittany Sat 27-Mar-10 17:42:09

Well here are the implications:

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:6-9)

"All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:37-40)

The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:24-30)

In this passage, Jesus makes it clear that he is not merely a mortal man:

"Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:56-58)

Finally, though we do not have a record of Jesus saying, "I Am The Son of God", in those exact words, he did say plainly that He was the Messiah. On several occasions when asked if He was the Son of God, he either affirmed that He was, or did not deny it. Here are the most revealing passages:

The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." (John 4:25-26)

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." (Matthew 16:15-17)

The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matthew 26:63-64)

They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am." (Luke 22:70)

Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (John 10:36-38)

I think that second last quote from Luke is pretty explicit as is the last one from John.

Clarissimo Sat 27-Mar-10 17:49:08

I see it from noth sides I think, I knaow htehre is much in faith that is mysogynistic but equally there is much that is empowering, it is not a one way road at all.

It also depends on how you see your faith- if you are someone who is book led I think chances are you are going to acept feminism is not your bag

Equally though if you are someone who follows a branch that teaches you should follow your conscience and your God inspired beleifs over any book or human preaching then you will be OK.

So the answer SGB I think withong Christianity is Quakerism (OK it is for me anyway)

'As for being part of patriarchal religion and a feminist, lots of us do anti-feminist things to survive in this woman-hating world, so I don't think there is a contradiction between being part of patriarchal religion and being a feminist. What would be anti-feminist would be to try and shut other women up from talking about it or defending the misogyny.' I think thats very true Dittany. I also think though that many peopel do not accept the Old Testament in any real way within Christianity- the key texts for many are those of Jesus which are about love and acceptance, and of course the Bible is divinely inspired not divinely written: we know (as Christians) that mankind was involved in the writing of it.

And then there are many other faiths- Buddhism and Jainism has had female mendicants i high regard as far back as the faith writings go though there is certainly mucgmysogeny in Jainsim (the concept that males can go underssed but a female who did would cause the males to be tempted for example). But then you are looking at a faith way older than Christianity (we don;t know how old really)- so perhaps even having female mendicants was incredibly huge at the time, and that should be taken into consideration? What is passed onpaper or learned verse as doctrine created thousands of eyars ago should be viewed from the time it was written in when beinga ssessed (as well as for relevance in the modern world).

Then you get Hindusim and Sati, conmcpts of impure and you want to scream. Hindy feminsits tell su that sati actually emphasised the power of teh female but really it's just nasty shit isn't it? Cultural crap masquerading as religious obligation. Your hubby died, we don;t want to have to support you and our scoiety won't allow you to support yourself so off you go into the fire. AFAIK the alst incident of Sati was @ 20 yaers ago but nmy lecturer in Hindu studies tells em she thinks it still ahppens in the most rural areas: I don;t know. I hope to God not. To any God.

And Islam- the Islamic femionists are an interesting bunch. Sometimes you read them and think- it sounds like justification over reality. And of course its harder to be accepted as arguing with a divinely given book than a divinely inspired one. Theya re wonderful people though:annd they also illustrate just by thir being the truth about teh differnece bertween Muslim faith and Islamic culture. The Islamic cultures being the palces that wouldn;t allow them the chance or education to even spread their ideology. The places where a harsh interpreatation of Idslam is used to justify torture and murder of woemn (eg teh rules aroun rape in sharia law). I think when you jusge an actual religion for what it is there is much value in looking at how it exists in palces where it is not a dominat faith- and there is plenty of eviddence of female emancipation and feminsit ideology in those palces within Islam.

So. To sum up there are loads fo faith sand they all differ, but to find a place for real feminsim chances are you need to be looking at liuberal interpretations and eitehr where branches have evolved in more recent times (the last 500 yaers at elast) or where a faith has moved outiside the cultural references that it evolved within.

Ohalmost forgot Sikhism. Not sure about Sikh femionsim tbh, never encountered one but there is a big equality move behind Sikhism from the outset and any faith that can combine langar and being anti- caste has the right roots for freedom for all.

Clarissimo Sat 27-Mar-10 17:51:53

Dittany can't find my onotes atm (Somewhere in the attic, graduated inworld faiths in 2008) but I am sure that whether Jesus actually said he is God's son etc depends on the BIble version. There is also the fact that everything recorded has been under male interpretation; men wrote the Bible, not God or women.

dittany Sat 27-Mar-10 18:02:33

I don't think the versions of the bible differ that much that in some versions jesus wasn't going around claiming to be the messiah and that god was his father.

And seriously if you're going to say that the bible was written by men so we can't take whatever it says seriously (at least when it makes us uncomfortable), then why would you even believe that Jesus existed or that anything within it is a record of his teachings? If you don't, there's no basis for christianity whatsoever. The idea of christianity is based on the idea that jesus existed, that he did teach what is included in the bible (and yes you can have arguments about the apocrypha but that's pretty much beside the point) - you can't pick and choose.

If you're not using the record of jesus's teachings in the bible as your starting point, then your version of christianity is imaginary and has nothing to do with the insitituion that has existed for the past 2 millenia.

It really does seem that the only way women can fit in with this is to try and have it both ways - accept that jesus existed and that his life and teachings are recorded in the bible, but at the same time writing off the uncomfortable bits with "They didn't mean that/he didn't mean that"

SpeedyGonzalez Sat 27-Mar-10 18:06:53

Well, Dittany I am slightly blush as I had forgotten about some of those quotes which you’ve posted! Most of them are implicit, but yes – some of them are as close as you can get without saying those exact words! Still, it doesn’t change the fact that he communicated different things in different ways, and while we may wish that he’d said certain things in a less oblique way, it doesn’t change the fact that his intentions in behaving differently, for example, towards women, were intended to challenge the status quo.

Speaking of which, I’ve just noticed the last para of your previous post, in which you’re wrongly assuming that I believe the religious bigots “don’t really mean it”. I’ve already made it very clear in earlier posts (such as where I called them screwed-up bigots and nutters) that I believe they do mean it, but that their prejudice and messed-up attitudes do not change the way I feel about my faith. People can use something beautiful such as sex to hurt and damage others, but this would not make me change the way I feel about sex; I would see it as an example of those people being messed-up.

Just to clarify - I am not looking for ways to have or retain a religious faith, I think all organised religion is toxic bullshit and I don't see the need to invent new forms of imaginary friends who are woman-friendly, myself (though I was wondering if anyone was going to appear who knew more than a little about the ancient matriarchal religions?).

And no, I can't be arsed to use polite euphemisms for people's imaginary friends in public debate.

By the way Dittany, I am impressed with your Biblical knowledge, mine is far more sketchy.

Clarissimo Sat 27-Mar-10 18:11:40

Dittany Bible versions digffer hugely

And we know that jesus exisred because of non faith contemporaneous sources. It is not the fact that men wrote it either bvut the fsct that men who existed in a time of non challenged patriarchy where women were not even sonsidered capable pof education etc may well, ahve absed assumptions on what was common belief at the time. If you understanding of women is only that they are not as capable as men why would you even assume or consider a feminine alternative to the notion that God is male etc?

You wouldn't.

I can try and dig out some of my olf Theology stuff about the Son of God thing- it's not my main field (Buddhism and a dissertaiton on role of christianity in salvery was that0 but I am certain there was some serious debate on it at the time.

Clarissimo Sat 27-Mar-10 18:13:34

SGB PMSL- I am Peachy, I assure you I know your take grin wink

But still I align myself with Quakerism so really am not bothered. Doesn't worry me one bit, my right to beleive is equal to your right to beleive as we both choose.

Miggsie Sat 27-Mar-10 18:19:26

Religions that are/were female friendly:

Irish Christianity until 10th Century (then Catholicism triumphed as it offered men more power).

Paganism with the God and the Goddess. The Goddees is dominant as she brings life.

Buddhism isn't too bad either.

Clarissimo Sat 27-Mar-10 18:21:23

'If you're not using the record of jesus's teachings in the bible as your starting point, then your version of christianity is imaginary and has nothing to do with the insitituion that has existed for the past 2 millenia.

You misunderstood me I think

I know many mainstream Christians (as you see I am not mainstream) who do not accept the OT: most accept the NT but idifferent interpretations and translations.

Translation is an evil thing: and just becuase we know what something was meant to mean does not mean it will ever be accepted. Most Theologists I know accept that what was translated as virgin for example actually just means young woman.

But absolutely I agree with you: If you are starting from a MS faith viewpoint (mine after all is based on personal relationship with God and I am more inspired by Vivekananda than any Christian writer, just have an unshakeable faith in the existence of Jesus and the truth in his teachings) then really you either need to accept what the BIble does say, accept that you differ in that respect or deleude yourself to beleiving that the Bible says something it doesn't really. or as many do, accept the difference between Christianity in term of the Cult of Jesus and Christianity as Church and all it's trappings. After all even Atheists like my parents who ahve much in common with SGB's take can beelive in the existence of Jesus and his philosophy- what they would snigger at endlessly would be my faith in any higher power or acceptance of Jesus as anything more than a bloke who had nice ideas.

SpeedyGonzalez Sat 27-Mar-10 18:27:26

SGB - "And no, I can't be arsed to use polite euphemisms for people's imaginary friends in public debate." Fair enough, that's your choice. Just know that as a direct result of this, people won't take your opinions as seriously as you'd like.

Just heard a snippet of something about women and religion on Loose Ends on R4; not sure what they were saying (DS's voice was much louder than the radio!) but it might be interesting - it was in the first 10 mins of the programme.

TheCrackFox Sat 27-Mar-10 18:31:52

I don't believe in God mainly because I am a feminist. I refuse to believe that I am a second class citizen (being made from one of Adam's ribs) and therefore, just can't buy into any of it.

JeMeSouviens Sat 27-Mar-10 18:37:38

We aren't second class citizens.

The Bible clearly states that

God is not partial
The Women are a large army (they are valued and have a job to do)
At one point, God told Abraham to listen to the voice of his wife (showing her view was just as valid, and in this case, more so than Abrahams)
It was women who had the privelege of first seeing the resurrected Jesus

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